Iyengar yoga takes a safe and structured approach to teaching yoga, allowing students to progress from simpler poses to more challenging ones over time. Each class is different, individually prepared by the teacher, often tailored to suit the needs of the people in it. Classes are usually 75 mins or longer, allowing time for preparatory asanas at the start, resting in Savasana at the end and plenty of teaching in between! Class sizes are limited, to allow for individual attention and correction.
Our classes are suitable for everyone – we use equipment to adapt the poses for different levels of fitness and ability. Stiffness is not a barrier to yoga! Equipment can also be used to develop our intelligence in the poses and sometimes to make them more challenging.
We cover all types of postures in Iyengar yoga – standing, sitting, twisting, backbends, forward bends, inversions and pranayama (breath work). Sometimes we practice in a gentle and restorative way, at other times we practice challenging sequences. We often hold the poses for a long time but sometimes we link them together in flowing sequences. Some poses are energising and warm the body, others are calming and cool the body. In the Iyengar system, we all need to practice the full range of asanas, to bring balance.
In Beginners and Level 1 classes, we concentrate on standing poses and the classes are quite physically challenging, although all the asanas can be adapted to suit varying levels of fitness. In general, the classes become more varied and the work more subtle as we progress through to Level 3 and beyond.
Our teaching is quite detailed and designed to help you develop a clear understanding of each asana. It is based on the teachings of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar, whose book, ‘Light on Yoga’ is considered to be the gold standard in yoga instruction.
All Iyengar yoga teachers have completed a notoriously thorough and lengthy teacher training and assessment process. Only certified Iyengar teachers are permitted to use the Iyengar Certification Mark and we are required to continue our training with more senior teachers to retain it.
At Yoga Now, we are yoga enthusiasts (some might say yoga nerds) – we are constantly studying our subject and finding new ways to communicate our understanding of it. We recognise that the subject is vast and the journey is long but it is always interesting and rewarding. We hope to convey some of our enthusiasm to you!
Iyengar qualification levels
Introductory certificate qualifies teachers for general classes for Beginners, Level 1 and Level 2 and to help students with minor health issues. Trainee teachers must study for at least 3 years with an Iyengar teacher before applying to become a trainee teacher. Trainees are then mentored by their senior teacher for at least 3 more years and recommended for the assessment when they are thought to be ready. Candidates must pass written and practical assessments of their own practice, their teaching and theoretical understanding before they are allowed to teach. Not everyone passes.
Junior Intermediate certification is divided into 3 levels and qualifies us to teach more challenging asanas. There is a written and practical assessment at each level and it takes a minimum of 3 years to do them all.
Senior Intermediate certificate is also divided into 3 levels and also takes at least 3 years to complete, with an assessment at each level. Senior Intermediate teachers can teach people with more complex medical conditions and can teach themed classes and workshops.
Our teacher training system is notoriously hard. It takes a long time to qualify and requires huge commitment to complete and maintain.
It is important to note that although Iyengar yoga is identified by it’s use of equipment, you will not use it all the time in an Iyengar class. We use equipment when it is necessary for a student to work safely and well or when it will help us to learn an action in the body. It is also important to practice without equipment and we do that in our classes too.
The use of equipment in yoga – blocks, bricks, belts, mats, blankets, bolsters, chairs, ropes etc. all evolved from the inventiveness of Mr.Iyengar in his search to make yoga accessible to everyone who came to his classes. Having struggled with ill health in his early life, BKS Iyengar strove to bring health through yoga to others in similar situations.
The belts we use today are still based on the simple Indian luggage strap he saw holding suitcases and bags together in Mumbai. Our bricks are still based on the size and shape of Indian house bricks because that is what he had to hand when he was looking for a way to help support someone in Sirsasana. Yoga mats were introduced to help one student with a condition which meant she didn’t perspire, so her feet kept slipping. Now we all use them!
If you can’t catch your toes (and few can initially!) we give you a belt to hold round your foot. If your hand doesn’t reach the floor, we bring the floor to you by giving you a brick. However, there is a lot more to the use of equipment than this and over time, you will learn to use it to take you further into asanas and bring new actions to the body.
We are very fortunate at Yoga Now to have a lovely rope wall, which allows us to practice ‘Yoga Kurunti’ (puppet yoga). We use the ropes to provide traction in the body and to support the body, especially in inversions, for people with neck injuries which prevent them from bearing weight through the neck. Many poses can be practiced ‘on the ropes’ to bring a lovely sense of space and traction in the body. However, like all the equipment, it can also be used to create greater challenges and some rope work demands a lot of strength and experience.
Iyengar yoga really is for everybody, from absolute beginners to experienced practitioners who want to learn in more depth. It is particularly useful for athletes and sportspeople in improving performance and minimising injuries.